As if it were a novel series, the biggest corruption plot from Brazil involves a senior Venezuelan official, nothing less than the national head of state. But the Prosecutor's Office is silent. Although distanced from the government, Luisa Ortega Díaz ignored the issue, despite the fact that her counterparts had already notified her about the case.
Nicolás Maduro himself handed over US$ 11 million under the table for the last re-election campaign of former President Hugo Chávez. The famous Brazilian publicists, Joao Santana and Mónica Moura, had already warned that the Lava Jato case involved Chavismo's electoral financing, but their statements - filtered yesterday by the Brazilian justice - go further now; they involve the Venezuelan president in the lava jato case, the biggest corruption plot that involves all Latin American countries.
In exchange for procedural benefits, last year’s February publicist Joao Santana —the brain of Chávez's electoral campaigns, among other Latin American leaders— confessed with his wife, Mónica Moura, that they charged US$ 35 million to develop the electoral propaganda of the deceased President Chávez. Back then it was already a scandal that the campaign was run by the Brazilian giant Odebrecht in exchange for special contracts. But there is more now of what has been a novel series. The Brazilian justice said that the publicists warned in their statements that the irregular payments also involved the then Venezuelan chancellor, Nicolás Maduro.
Two Brazilian constructors contributed 12 out of the 35 million U.S. dollars of the publicists: Odebrecht transferred $ 7 million while Andrade Gutiérrez deposited another $ 5 million in a Swiss account through the front company Shellbill Finance SA. There were 12 million that were owed of which there are no details, while the remaining 11 million came out in cash from the Venezuelan Chancery. "Maduro received Mónica in his office, gave her briefcases of money and provided an escort for security during the trip from the chancery to the producer," as indicated in the documents that the Supreme Court of Brazil recently declassified.
This is the first time that a senior Venezuelan official appears in the corruption plot of the so-called Lava Jato operation, and it is nothing less than the head of state of the nation. The Peruvian justice imputed former presidents Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo, while there have been reports in the rest of the region that splash presidents, from Colombia’s Álvaro Uribe and Panama’s Ricardo Martinelli to the current presidents of Argentina, Dominican Republic, Colombia and Panama: Mauricio Macri, Danilo Medina, Juan Manuel Santos and Juan Carlos Valera, respectively.
In Venezuela, the Public Prosecutor's Office has not pronounced itself despite the fact that the Brazilian Attorney General's Office submitted the information through regular channels, as recorded in the minutes of file No. 105118/2017, published yesterday with the signature of its top holder, Rodrigo Janiot. Although the Prosecutor of the Republic, Luisa Ortega Díaz, has distanced herself from Maduro's government, she has never charged him or any other official with the corruption of Odebrecht and the other contractors who paid bribes in exchange for the best contracts. She did not do it in February, after traveling to Brasilia to meet with those in charge of investigating the case, and she has not done so in these days in which she has denounce a rupture of the constitutional thread in Venezuela.
However, the story should have arrived in her office long before yesterday, when she finally warned how the illegal financing of Chavez's last campaign began. Lula was the first to ask publicist Joao Santana to develop the reelection campaign of his comrade Chávez , for which he involved one of his closest collaborators, minister José Dirceu, and the Venezuela’s ambassador in Brasilia, Maximilien Arveláiz, today turned into a Hollywood producer with the film of Snowden, whom Moura pointed out as " Hugo Chávez main articulator and guarantor in Brazil. "
Weeks later, they met in Caracas, in Palacio de Miraflores (the presidential residence), where they closed a business of which no proofs should exist. Moura said, "Chancellor Nicolás Maduro demanded that most of the payments related to the campaign be received as undeclared resources." He should never have thought that the then advisors and publicists would become the informers five years later.
(*) This is an issue of the network of structured journalists, who covered and published simultaneously in IDL-Reporteros, in Peru, La Prensa de Panamá, and Armando.info in Venezuela.
Adrián Perdomo Mata has just entered the list of sanctioned entities of the US Department of the Treasury, as president of Minerven, the state company in charge of exploring, exporting and processing precious metals, particularly gold from the Guayana mines. His arrival in office coincided with the boom in exports of Venezuelan gold to new destinations, like Turkey, to finance food imports. Behind these secretive operations is the shadow of Alex Saab and Álvaro Pulido, the main beneficiaries of the sales of food for the Local Supply and Production Committee (Clap). Perdomo worked with them before Nicolás Maduro placed him in charge of the Venezuelan gold.
Gassan Salama, a Palestinian-cause activist, born in Colombia and naturalized Panamanian, frequently posts messages supporting the Cuban and Bolivarian revolutions on his social media accounts. But that leaning is not the main sign to doubt his impartiality as an observer of the elections in Venezuela, a role he played in the contested elections whereby Nicolás Maduro ratified himself as president. In fact, Salama, an entrepreneur and politician who has carried out controversial searches for submarine wrecks in Caribbean waters, found his true treasure in the main social aid and control program of Chavismo, the Clap, for which he receives millions of euros.
While the key role of Colombian entrepreneurs Alex Saab Morán and Álvaro Pulido Vargas in the import scheme of Nicolás Maduro’s Government program has come to light, almost nothing has been said about the participation of the traders who act as suppliers from Mexico. These are economic groups that, even before doing business with Venezuela, were not alien to public controversy.
Even though there are new brands, a new physical-chemical analysis requested by Armando.Info to UCV researchers shows that the milk powder currently distributed through the Venezuelan Government's food aid program, still has poor nutritional performance that jeopardizes the health of those who consume it. In the meantime, a mysterious supplier manages to monopolize the increasing imports and sales from Mexico to Venezuela.
Turkey and the coastal emirates of the Arabian Peninsula are now the homes of companies that supply the main social -and clientelist- program of the Government of Venezuela. Although the move from Mexico and Hong Kong, seems geographically epic, the companies has not changed hands. They are still owned by Colombian entrepreneurs Alex Nain Saab Morán and Álvaro Pulido Vargas, who control since 2016 a good part of the Import of food financed with public funds. Around the world for a business.
Since the borders to Colombia and Brazil are packed and there is minimal access to foreign currency to reach other desirable destinations, crossing to Trinidad and Tobago is one of the most accessible routes for those in distress seeking to flee Venezuela. Relocating them is the business of the 'coyotes' who are based in the states of Sucre or Delta Amacuro, while cheating them is that of the boatmen, fishermen, smugglers and security forces that haunt them.
They lose their freedom as soon as they set foot on any Trinidadian beach, and their “original sin” is an alleged debt that these women can only pay by becoming sexual merchandise. They are tamed through a prior process of torture, rotation and terror, until they lose the urge to escape. The growth of these human trafficking networks is so evident that regional and parliamentary reports admit that the complicity of the island’s justice system in this machinery of deceit and violence multiplies the number of victims.
In front of the curtain of collapse of the major financial group in Portugal, José Trinidad Márquez, a native of Caracas, offered the stellar performance to his lifetime career of fraud. After swindling the high management of the bank, he’s taken refuge presumably in some part of Spain, where the press baptized him as “the golden middleman” or “the man with thousand faces”. With his well trained routine of a petroleum expert, who offers himself to try and arrange business connections with PDVSA, perfected over the course of more than two decades, he’s earned himself millions of dollars, as well as criminal accusations in various countries.
Nicolas Maduro’s main contractor was arrested last Friday, right after landing at the international airport of Cape Verde, an archipelago in the Atlantic, on the gates of Africa. It may be his penultimate trip, if he is finally deported or extradited to the United States, as U.S. authorities expect. It would be the worst of all endings after many years travelling and earning miles but, above all, millions of dollars thanks to opaque corporate structures, whereby he managed preferential currencies, public works, food supplies for the CLAPs, contracts with PDVSA, and even the trade of Venezuelan gold and coal since 2013.
A small bank in Antigua and Barbuda, but controlled by Venezuelans, is at the center of some of the financial operations of Nicolas Maduro’s regime. Created in 2008 and with a diffuse trace for years, North International Bank began to take off in 2016 when it was authorized to operate in Caracas. Since then, it has been channeling millions of dollars to and from the coffers of the revolutionary ‘nomenklatura.’
For some months now, parliament members of different opposition political parties have been offering to make informal proceedings on request before agencies like the Colombian Attorney General's Office and the United States Department of the Treasury. They issue letters of good conduct to those responsible for negotiations on the imports for CLAP combos, so that such agencies absolve or stop investigating entrepreneurs like Carlos Lizcano, a subordinate of the already sanctioned Alex Saab and Alvaro Pulido. The fact that the most active defense of the main social program and focus of corruption of the government of Nicolas Maduro comes from the heart of the National Assembly 'in contempt' is just one of the ironies of this story.
The former chavista governor of the State of Bolívar from 2004 to 2017 changed overnight from excessive media exhibitionism to low profile. His departure to Mexico completed the circle of the retirement plan he had been preparing while on civil service. He was now staying in the same country where the businesses of his daughter's husband flourished, which he had significantly fostered from his positions in Guayana. Now, with financial sanctions imposed on him by Canada and the United States, Francisco José Rangel Gómez prefers to stay under the radar.